Thursday, October 08, 2009

The First Lady's Ancestry - is this REALLY a surprise?


The NYTimes did an ' investigative' piece on the First Lady's ancestry.

In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery
Published: October 7, 2009

A section:

WASHINGTON — In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475.

In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time.

In the annals of American slavery, this painful story would be utterly unremarkable, save for one reason: This union, consummated some two years before the Civil War, represents the origins of a family line that would extend from rural Georgia, to Birmingham, Ala., to Chicago and, finally, to the White House.

Melvinia Shields, the enslaved and illiterate young girl, and the unknown white man who impregnated her are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama, the first lady.

Viewed by many as a powerful symbol of black advancement, Mrs. Obama grew up with only a vague sense of her ancestry, aides and relatives said. During the presidential campaign, the family learned about one paternal great-great-grandfather, a former slave from South Carolina, but the rest of Mrs. Obama’s roots were a mystery.

Now the more complete map of Mrs. Obama’s ancestors — including the slave mother, white father and their biracial son, Dolphus T. Shields — for the first time fully connects the first African-American first lady to the history of slavery, tracing their five-generation journey from bondage to a front-row seat to the presidency.

Rest of article at link above.

I found the interactive graphic showing the family tree interesting.

'Unknown White man' ....ummm...come on, now.

I can't see anything in this article that would be a surprise to anyone Black in this country. Because, we know, understand and live the history of this country. Most of us, can more likely than not, do a bit of research and find the White branch of the family tree.

I've argued for awhile now that the Black community has always been a multi-racial community, from the first time the White Slave Master did his walk down to the slave quarters. When I was in school and wanted to mess with folks, I'd calmly ask:

You know that the overwhelming majority of Black slaves in the West came from the Western coast of Africa. Look at those countries today -- you see what their populations look like. Please explain to me how, if they look like that in Africa, how the Black community in America has such a variance in their shading. How can we have this rainbow of brown? How can we have this variance in hair textures....without being mixed with White folks? And, how did that mixing occur?

Shut them the ' F' up - EVERY SINGLE TIME.

The multi-racialism of the Black community is why, when two Black folks get together, it's pretty much a genetic lottery, because you don't know what will be at play. Maybe the kid will look like you or the other parent, or maybe, you'll get a ' throwback' baby.

My maternal grandfather would have been comfortable walking the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, like the family name he carried. You know how we ' look' at folks and 'just know' - that wasn't him. Born on a slave plantation to his White looking mother. He married my maternal grandmother - 20 years his junior and ' Black as the Ace of Spades'. Between them, they had 15 children, ranging from dark chocolate to my aunt, who could have passed for a red-headed White woman. I don't believe the story of my family is all that unique for Blacks in America.

And neither is the story of the First Lady's family. To me, it's only a surprise to the ' willfully ignorant'.

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